Nicaragua - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses
World Bank helps fund Nicaragua's national broadband infrastructure
Nicaragua is the largest and least densely populated country in Central America. The country's significant GDP growth since 2010 belies the low economic base, given that it has the lowest GDP per capita in the region, with some 60% of the population living below the poverty line. As a result, much of the economic drive has been the result of international assistance, particularly from the World Bank and other agencies.
The efforts underway to build a canal between the Pacific and Caribbean, largely with Chinese funding, which will incorporate deep-water ports, an oil pipeline, railroad and international airport, is an ambitious attempt to bring to deliver greater economic benefits, though the business case for the project remains uncertain.
Nicaragua's telecoms market has mirrored the poor economic achievements, with fixed-line teledensity and mobile penetration also the lowest in Central America. The broadband market remains nascent, with population penetration at about 2% in early 2017. Most internet users are concentrated in the largest cities because the rural and marginal areas lack access to the most basic telecom infrastructure. A number of internet cafés provide public access to internet and email services, but these are also restricted to the larger population centres. To address poor infrastructure, the World Bank is funding a project aimed at improving connectivity via a national fibre broadband network. There are separate schemes to improve broadband in the country's eastern regions, and providing links to Caribbean submarine cables.
América Móvil's Claro has a clear lead in all of Nicaragua's telecom sectors, including fixed-line, mobile, broadband, and pay TV. The number of mobile subscribers overtook the number of fixed lines in early 2002, and as of early 2017 the mobile sector accounted for the significant majority of all lines in service.
Telefónica's Movistar is the only company competing with Claro in the fixed-line and mobile market. In the mobile sector, Movistar holds almost one third of the market, but in the fixed-line sector, it has only about 10% market share.
Due to a weak regulatory structure and bureaucratic delays, further liberalisation has been a slow process. The market duopoly has dampened the competitive drive between the two main players, and as a result there has been less effort than in neighbouring countries to improve quality and lower prices. Nevertheless there are other companies operating in the market, including the Russian state corporation Rostejnologuii, Yota Mobile and IWB Holding. In the mobile market Xinwei Nicaragua (Xinwei Intelcom) launched services in early 2016, operating under the CooTel banner.
Movistar Nicaragua extends LTE services to ten major cities; Great Wall delays Nicasat-1 satellite launch; Xinwei Nicaragua launches mobile services under the CooTel brand; Work starts on a 3,500km fibre-optic broadband network; World bank funding the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (CARCIP) to improve broadband in Nicaragua's eastern regions; New satellite commissioned to provide pay-TV and telecom services, boosting the availability and scale of services both for the country and region. Claro retaining near-monopoly over broadband; Telefónica planning to deploy a 3,158 mile fibre cable covering Central America, linking Mexico to Panama via Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica; Report update includes the regulator's market data, ITU data for 2016, recent market developments.